Noisy demonstrators disrupted shopping at upscale suburban malls on Saturday and later marched through a popular district of bars and restaurant to protest a white St. Louis police officer’s acquittal in the killing of a black man, marking a second day of mostly-peaceful opposition marred by sporadic incidents of vandalism and violence.
A few hundred people shouted slogans such as “black lives matter” and “it is our duty to fight for our freedom” as they marched through West County Center in Des Peres to decry the judge’s verdict Friday clearing ex-officer Jason Stockley of first-degree murder in the 2011 shooting of Anthony Lamar Smith.
Susanna Prins, 27, of University City, showed up at a meeting to plan the action carrying a sign stating, “White silence is violence.”
“I feel helpless and I feel just rage,” Prins said. “Not saying or doing anything makes you complicit in the brutalization of our friends and neighbors.”
Smith’s death is just one of several high-profile U.S. cases in recent years in which a white officer killed a black suspect, including the 2014 killing of Michael Brown in nearby Ferguson that sparked months of angry and sometimes violent protests.
Republican Gov. Eric Greitens was highly critical during his 2016 campaign of how former Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon managed the Ferguson protests, suggesting that with the right presence and leadership there could have been peace by the second night.
In advance of the Stockley verdict, Greitens met with Smith’s fiancée, black state lawmakers, black St. Louis faith leaders and law enforcement in the hopes of projecting a shared message that peaceful protest would be tolerated but violence wouldn’t.
Before the verdict, Greitens put the National Guard on standby, and some troops were deployed Friday night to guard fire stations and other “critical infrastructure” that Greitens didn’t specify. He was in St. Louis Friday night and met with local law enforcement officials.
Police erected barricades around their own headquarters and the courthouse and dozens of officers in flak jackets and helmets who wielded batons and shields corralled demonstrators throughout the day and evening.
Demonstrators occasionally lobbed objects into the fortified line of officers, who used pepper spray to repel the crowd.
Tensions flared several times, including when protesters blocked a bus full of riot officers, damaged a police cruiser with rocks and later broke a window and spattered red…